Steamboat Springs Residents who don't think much of the Stockbridge Multi-Modal Center now will in 10 years, city officials believe.
Residents have complained that the 25 parking spaces at the transit park-and-ride center on U.S. 40 were barely used before the city expanded the parking lot by adding 122 new spaces this spring.
"Now, it does look stupid," Councilman Paul Strong said. "But when parking gets worse, shuttle transportation will solve some of our parking situation. In 10 or 15 years, the parking lot will really look smart."
Strong and other city representatives say the project has been heralded by the Colorado Department of Transportation and predict the center will be praised in the future for reducing traffic and congestion.
"Steamboat growth is only going to get worse and they've thought of something for the future," Strong said.
Last week, the city's Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Wilson discussed the third and final phase of the project for the City Council. The original intent for Phase III was to create more parking spaces that would have 275 spaces for the entire complex. But Wilson said the public will have a chance to give input on what they would like to see added in the final phase.
"We really haven't been able to get the community to use what is there now. We want to finish Phase II, then start designing Phase III," City Manager Paul Hughes said. "In the end, we think we'll come up with something that really works even better."
Although $150,000 was budgeted this year for the completion of the third phase, which would have been matched by $600,000 from outside grants, the amount was dropped to just $40,000. That money, Hughes said, will be used for the design portion of Phase III and for construction of open space trails and pedestrian connections.
Hughes said the remaining $110,000 will be rolled into the 2003 budget and the grant money would change as the scope of the project changed.
"We still think it is an excellent plan. The state still thinks it is an excellent intermodal center," Hughes said.
So far, the public hasn't shared that view.
In the 2002 Community Survey, released in May, more than 50 percent of the respondents said they were not at all satisfied with the Stockbridge Park and Ride. Only the Steamboat Springs Airport, which is still paying off the debt for a terminal it is now renting to Smartwool, ranked lower in overall public satisfaction.
But city officials said the public discontent with the project is unwarranted, and although the park and ride has seen little use, other aspects of the project have proven their merit.
Director of Transportation Services George Krawzoff will go as far as to say it took just a day for the benefits to be reaped. The turn-around point of Stockbridge means Go-Fer Foods' Dumpster is no longer the loading and unloading point for downtown bus service and extended bus service past Seventh Street.
"The benefit to the transit service was felt the very first day it began operating out of Stockbridge," he said. "More businesses get transit service and the public ends up making a better presentation."
When the Stockbridge Center first opened in 2000, it did so with the funding from state agencies such as the Department of Local Affairs and Great Outdoors Colorado. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. donated a used modular building that was remodeled into the existing transit center with a heated waiting area and bathrooms.
Routt County and the city put in $200,000 each for the purchase of the 6.4 acres of land. And regardless of the success of the center's park and ride, the preservation of land that could have been turned into commercial real estate is one of the project's crowning achievements, public officials said.
While the Stockbridge Center ranked low on the community survey, respondents consistently ranked preserving open space and building more trails as high priorities.
Kevin Bennett, former City Council president who was involved in laying groundwork for the Stockbridge project, said that obtaining open space, extending the core trail and preserving the riparian growth along the river were all objectives of the project.
"Open space increased 400 percent from 1993 to 2001, and this was part of that," Bennett said.
Although the benefits of the park and ride will not be felt for the next 10 to 15 years when traffic from Hayden, Craig and west of Steamboat increases Bennett said the council decided to do the project in the late 1990s because grant funding was available then and not guaranteed in the future.
Outside funding pays for 80 percent of the project cost and the city, which was aided by the county, picked up the remaining 20 percent.
"We would have never though of, never built the parking lot except for the fact that the state and other partners got us involved for a variety of reasons with that money," Bennett said.
Five years later, the city's money situation has tightened, Strong said, making it harder to find the matching funds to go with the grants, regardless of how good the deal is.
"The city is very successful in obtaining grants. And that is a great thing for the citizens and they do a lot of things with that," Strong said. "However, sometimes we apply for grants and we don't pay as much attention to the matching part as we should."